Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
29 May 2015
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Starting off with an appointment today: the Secretary-General appoints Eugene Owusu of Ghana as his Deputy Special Representative in the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). He will also serve as the UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator, and Resident Representative of UNDP.
He will succeed Mr. Toby Lanzer of the United Kingdom, who will be taking up the post of Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel. The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Lanzer's dedicated service to the UN and the Republic of South Sudan.
Mr. Owusu brings to the position extensive experience in international development and humanitarian affairs. He is currently the UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator in the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, a position he has held since August 2010.
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council's open meeting on the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters and said that the flow of such fighters that have joined the ranks of Da'esh and other terrorist groups continues to grow. There has been an estimated 70 per cent increase in foreign terrorist fighters worldwide between the middle of 2014 and March 2015.
He said that no country can tackle this challenge alone. Member States have to enhance their cooperation and exchange information, develop effective border controls and strengthen their criminal justice systems, in accordance with the rule of law and human rights standards. Full compliance with international law is central to success.
The Secretary-General added that we have to address the conditions conducive to young men and women being lured by violent extremism. Radicalization is the essential precursor to individuals becoming foreign terrorist fighters. Building effective, accountable and inclusive governance and institutions is an important element of these preventive efforts.
Full remarks are available in my office.
Apart from Peacekeepers' Day, the Secretary-General also celebrated this morning the twentieth anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth.
He said 2015 represents an opportunity for transformation and that as the largest generation of youth the world has ever known, young people are in the driving seat of this change.
He also asked Governments to put young people at the centre of national development plans and called on young people across the world to lead and act with courage.
And Ahmad Alhendawi, his Special Adviser on Youth also addressed the General Assembly.
From Mali, UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] says today that renewed fighting between armed groups in northern Mali in the past four weeks has led to 57,000 people fleeing their homes, according to Malian authorities.
The newly displaced join the ranks of over 43,000 internally displaced people throughout the country who have not yet returned to their homes since the conflict in 2012 between Government forces and various rebel groups.
The total number of displaced people in Mali stands now at just over 100,000, mainly in the northern part of the country.
And you will have seen the statement we issued last night in which the Secretary-General expressed his sincere condolences to the family of a peacekeeper of Bangladesh who was killed in a shooting incident in Bamako earlier.
From Burundi, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and facilitator of the political dialogue, Said Djinnit, spoke to the press today in Bujumbura.
Despite persisting divergences on the core issue of the presidential term, he said the parties agreed to pursue their dialogue and have exchanged views on confidence-building measures and mutual commitments regarding the management of the electoral calendar, guarantees and measures for the holding of free, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections, and Constitutional political rights and freedoms.
Said Djinnit is travelling to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania today, to participate in the East African community Summit that takes place [on Sunday]. He said he hoped this summit will provide further guidance and impetus to reinforce the Burundian dialogue.
Finally, he called on all Burundian parties to exercise restraint and to refrain from any action that could generate violence and increase tension.
Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, continued his meetings within the framework of the Geneva Consultations today.
He met with a delegation of civil society organizations in the United States working on the Syrian crisis. He said afterward that listening to civil society organizations — especially those who work on advocacy and the medical doctors who put their lives at risk every day to save the victims of chemical attacks or shelling — was yet another reminder of the daily realities of the Syrian civilians who pay the highest toll of this conflict. He said it was also an opportunity to reflect on the aspirations of the diaspora.
The Special Envoy also met with delegations of European countries, namely Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Yesterday afternoon, the outgoing Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, whose last day is today, gave her last briefing to the Security Council, concerning Syria. She noted that it was fitting that she was talking about the Syrian crisis since it has taken more of her time and attention than any other crisis in the world.
That statement was made available to you yesterday.
Turning to Libya — in the framework of the ongoing political dialogue to end the country's crisis, the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL) today is facilitating a meeting of about 40 mayors and representatives from cities across the country today and tomorrow.
Participants will be briefed on the developments in the Libyan political dialogue and will discuss other items on the agenda, including the follow-up on the previous meetings and updates on the confidence-building measures of significance to municipalities and their communities.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative, Bernardino Leon, and the Foreign Minister of Tunisia also addressed the meeting.
Mr. Leon's comments are available in my office.
From Geneva, UNHCR said today it was deeply concerned about the desperate situation for thousands of people fleeing the central city of Ramadi who continue to face challenges reaching safe areas.
According to the IOM, the International Organization for Migration, 85,000 people have fled Ramadi since the fighting began in mid-May. About 85 per cent of those remain in Anbar governorate and more than 180,000 people in total are estimated to have been displaced by the fighting.
From Thailand, the UN Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk, addressed the special meeting on irregular migration in the Indian Ocean, which took place in Bangkok today.
He stressed that saving lives must be the number one priority and that there is an urgent need to reach a common understanding about more effective and predictable disembarkation options in the region.
Ahead of the meeting, UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shared a 10-point plan of action with concerned Governments. It included proposals to strengthen search and rescue operations, and ensure timely disembarkation, identify and seek solutions for refugees, and support the return of economic migrants.
His remarks are available on UNHCR's website.
**Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Yesterday, you will have seen, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General noted with concern the 2015 Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Needs and Priorities that has been presented [today] in Geneva by the UN Country Team in the DPRK. He appreciates the engagement between the DPRK authorities and the UN in its preparation. The document provides an overview of the urgent humanitarian priorities in the country this year in the areas of food and agriculture, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, as well as disaster preparedness.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier today welcomed the abolition of the death penalty in the State of Nebraska in the US, making it the nineteenth American State to have done so. Nebraska has not executed anyone since 1997.
Sunday as you know is World No Tobacco Day — in case you were not aware. The World Health Organization calls for action against illicit tobacco trade.
So far, only eight countries have ratified the Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, short of the target of 40 needed to become international law.
Today Ukraine becomes the ninety-second Member State to have paid its regular budget dues in full and on time. We thank our friends in Kyiv.
At 10 a.m., on Monday, there will be a press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Switzerland on the launch of the Small Arms 2015 report: Weapons and the World.
At noon, I will be joined by Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner General of UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East].
And lastly at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotomehin on Demographic Dividend and Youth Employment.
And I think after we are done here, Jean-Victor may also brief you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks a lot. First I want to just object. I've asked you 12 or more times about the CAR case in this room and I wanted to ask Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous. So as you said, noted, but your predecessor Martin Nesirky used to at least ask the question, if he would deny it. My question is as follows: this morning or last night, a series of documents were released by AIDS Free World and Code Blue including, as one example, a 5 August 2014 e-mail from MINUSCA, the peacekeeping mission run by Mr. Ladsous, showing full knowledge of the sexual abuse allegations. The question is: if DPKO knew in August 2014, how is any of the statements about zero tolerance and acting on abuse correct? And also I want to ask you about one other document before — there are a series of e-mails between Ms. [Carman] Lapointe, Ms. [Joan] Dubinsky, basically the entire supposed ethics structure here at the UN, including Ms. [Susana] Malcorra, about basically how to deal with Kompass. None of these people went public ever with the sexual child abuse.
And what I'm wondering is, did the Secretary‑General himself become aware of these discussions at Turin at the staff retreat which are all throughout these documents?
Spokesman: You know, we've seen the narrative put out by Code Blue today, which is obviously their own version of —
Question: Their documents —
Spokesman: —of a narrative. They've put out what they claim to be documents. I'm not going to go into comment on documents that may or may not be leaked, that may or may not be authentic. I think Mr. Ladsous said himself that he only became aware of these issues in the spring. There is an OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] investigation going on that will look — that will be pulling at the strings and looking at the process and how this — how this whole issue was handled.
Question: Since it's alleged that he… he asked Zeid… Prince Zeid to get the whistle-blower fired in a meeting in the spring here in New York, could you ask Mr. Ladsous on what day he became aware of it and whether he discussed the firing of the whistle-blower with Prince Zeid as alleged in the documents ‑‑
Spokesman: I think he said himself, in person, in front of a camera, denied making that—
Question: That's why I've asked—
Spokesman: He's denied—
Question: What has he denied?
Spokesman: He's denied—
Calling for the firing of Mr. Kompass.
Spokesman: I think all… I think no one is pleased how this whole case was handled, and it is being investigated and looked at and how it was handled.
Question: Who is being investigated? Is Mr. Ladsous being investigated?
Spokesman: The whole issue is being investigated. Sorry. You haven't had a question. Roger.
Spokesman: Then Iftikhar.
Question: It seems like, from the documents from Code Blue this morning, we've seen the way the OIOS investigation has been used to push Kompass out. It seems to be similar to the strategy used against Michael Schulenburg, SRSG — former SRSG — in Sierra Leone. Is the UN prepared to make a statement about the way OIOS acted which resulted in the removal of Mr. Schulenburg?
Spokesman: No, I'm not privy to details of Mr. Schulenburg's work. I think the dismissal of Mr. Kompass was also heard in a UN administrative tribunal which made a preliminary ruling to reinstate him, and we abided by that ruling.
Question: There are press reports and you must have seen them that the Secretary‑General's Special Representative on Children in Conflict has recommended that Israeli military be placed on a terror… among terror groups along with Boko Haram and Islamic State. Is this correct?
Spokesman: I think we've seen that press report, which always… which seems to quote a lot of very knowledgeable, anonymous diplomatic sources at the UN. What I can tell you as a fact is that the Secretary‑General has not made a final ruling on the report. It is still being worked on. When it is issued, it will all be clear for those to see what the decision was.
Mr. Klein, then Anna, and then Nizar.
Question: Yes. You gave a readout on Mr. de Mistura's latest meetings, consultations, and I… you know, I understand why it's useful to get the insights of people who are advocating from civil society, medical care and participating and so forth, but how is that actually directly helping in moving ahead and trying to find common ground to resolve the political process? I mean, isn't his focus… shouldn't his focus be to bring in representatives from the different opposition groups who are willing to speak, Government representatives, and the countries that can influence the outcome? I mean, we all know about the tragic humanitarian situation.
Spokesman: He's doing all of that.
Question: It's just a question of priorities.
Spokesman: No, but I think he's met with Government officials. He's met with various opposition groups that are operating in Syria. He's had discussions with the permanent members of the Security Council. I think yesterday and earlier in the week he had discussions with elected members of the Security Council. It's a multifaceted issue. And what he's trying to do is really gauge the temperature and having one‑on‑one discussions with all the people who have an impact. Some have more of a role and some have less of a role. But civil society is clearly part of the solution as is the Government and rebel groups and all others.
Question: But is this essentially almost a listening exercise, or is he trying to elicit and float perhaps some ideas for resolution to just see what the reaction—
Spokesman: He's very much listening to everything that everyone has to say, and then we will see what the next steps are. Clearly, it wasn't the right time to force everybody around the table. We've had some of the world's most ablest diplomats taking a crack at the Syrian crisis and we've seen the humanitarian impact, I think as eloquently elaborated on by Valerie Amos yesterday.
In the face of long odds, we keep pushing on the political track, and this is yet another attempt.
Anna and then Nizar and then Cara.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I have two questions. The first is on Pakistan. It's been reported that in certain regions of Pakistan, women were barred from voting, and this is spreading like wildfire and setting a dangerous precedent. What's your comment on this?
And the second question is on Nigeria. After presidential elections, first opposition President that Nigeria has, Mr. [Muhammadu] Buhari, US Secretary of State John Kerry was also there, and promises were made that US is going to be more involved in the issues of Nigeria, the fight against Boko Haram and also militarily involved. Is UN going to participate as well, or coordinate efforts with US and what is UN's general stance?
Spokesman: I think… let me go back. Your first question was on
Spokesman: Pakistan, sorry.
Question: Women barred from voting.
Spokesman: It is clear that whether in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world, women need to vote. They are an integral part of democracy. Condemning such actions is obvious.
On the second part of your question, as you know, the UN is not involved militarily in the fight against insurgents and Boko Haram. Our message has been clear from the start: it is that any military action needs to be in line with international human rights law and humanitarian law, and not create further problem. Obviously, there is a military insecurity component to fighting Boko Haram and other extremist groups and there are other parts to it. Dr. Babatunde, the head of UNFPA, as well as Amina Mohammed from the Secretary‑General's office, were both at the inauguration. Mr. Babatunde will be here Monday. I'm sure he'll be happy to talk to you about Nigeria.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I have two questions, one regarding the attack today in Damman, Saudi Arabia, against another mosque. It's happening it seems every five days — obviously by Da'esh. Another one is regarding the continuous aerial campaign against Yemen, which has been going on for over 62 days now. This is probably the longest aerial attack against any country in recent history.
Today there was an attack against the Governor of Sana'a, his private dwelling. So how does the United Nations… is there anything that can stop such a campaign against innocent people?
Spokesman: I think obviously those who control the guns have the ability to stop shooting, whether it's using guns, machine guns, airplanes, whatever you want. Those who are involved in the fighting have the power to stop the fighting. We are continuing to push on the political track as well and trying to get everyone to Geneva around the table without precondition, and that's exactly what Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is doing. He's in Sana'a, I believe, today. He'll be meeting with interlocutors. As soon as we get a readout, we'll share it with you.
We see what goes on every day that the fighting continues, more and more people suffer. And it has to stop. And that's what we've been calling for.
On Saudi, I just saw the press reports of another attack on a mosque, which clearly needs to be condemned outright. Not only is it a terrorist act, but the… obviously also being on a place of worship is, of course, to be condemned very clearly.
Question: There is more the United Nations can do by telling the world that the targeting of civilians—
Spokesman: Well, I think… I think we have. I think in our humanitarian updates we've regularly talked about the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
Question: How about naming and shaming?
Spokesman: I think we've talked about that.
Question: Thank you. Can the High Commissioner for Human Rights really request OIOS to investigate one of his own staffers? And when was the Secretary‑General informed of the child sexual abuse allegations in the CAR?
Spokesman: The OIOS has a mandate over the High Commissioner for Human Rights, so that's only normal. As for the Secretary‑General, I believe it was in the spring.
Question: Sure. Two questions, maybe one fast and one longer. The fast one is, I'd asked you about this UN peacekeeping accepting police and soldiers from Burundi. And you'd said that there's some process. So I want to ask you very specifically, I've now seen a letter that's circulating… that's been submitted to the UN to appoint a Mr. Godefroid Bizimana, who is a police officer, of which there are photographs firing into a crowd, to be a D-1 police officer in MINUSMA in Mali. And I wanted to know: how does the stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy apply in this case, which the UN says it's so concerned about?
Spokesman: All right. Let me check. I hadn't heard of this.
Question: And the other one has to do… I'm sorry to ask you this. I've asked a lot about this, that is why I'll ask again now. It has to do with the nephew of the Secretary‑General. I read what was said in Seoul. You were on the trip. But I've obtained and have been extremely troubled by a court filing regarding Mr. Dennis Joo‑hyun Bahn in which basically the same structure of what was alleged in the Viet Nam building, false documents, making claims that weren't true, were alleged in a US court involving real estate in Pennsylvania that he presented himself as a representative of a real estate company out in Pennsylvania, opened up a false bank account, solicited money from individuals, and put it into it. And this is a sworn affidavit, and the individual said that he called the FBI, as well as the Fort Lee police, and produces a document showing that he set up a fake company.
So I understand people are not responsible for their relatives. I'm sorry to ask you this, but it does seem to me extraordinary that this type of fraud is alleged against a relative of the Secretary‑General who's at a company doing business with the UN. So I'd like some kind of a comment on why the Secretary‑General apparently never disclosed that his son… his nephew works at Colliers and what his response is to these practices that seem to involve invoking the name of the UN and of the Secretary‑General—
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General spoke very clearly on his relationship with his nephew. I think we've briefed you on the few contracts that Colliers had with the UN, which predate the Secretary‑General. They now, I think, have some sort of involvement in the FF building, which came because they… they took over or renamed a company that previously managed it. The FF building has been occupied by the UN for decades or a long time, way before Ban Ki‑moon became Secretary‑General. He has no knowledge. He has no update. He has no involvement and no knowledge of what his… this gentleman does. And I think if you have any questions, you could also ask the nephew.
Question: When's the last time he spoke with his nephew?
Spokesman: He has no contact with his—
Question: The nephew called a newspaper in South Korea to try to do damage control.
Spokesman: He has no contact with his nephew.
Jean‑Victor, I say this with pride, it's all yours. Have a good weekend.
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